Wednesday, 19 January 2011

First Gannet of the year

Seawatching today produced the first Gannet of the year, plus good numbers of Red-throated Divers and a Harbour Porpoise offshore.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Smew and lots at Felbrigg

Today I paid a visit to Felbrigg to see if any more wildfowl had returned to the lake following its thaw and I wasn't disappointed.

A pair of Canada Geese, 13 Tufted Ducks (9m4f) and a Mute Swan were on the lake, and 8 Greylags were on the grassy field running up to the hall.

I then went to the eastern side of the park in the hope of locating a Marsh Tit, and although I drew a blank I was amply compensated with a stunning Firecrest in an area of holly bushes. At least one presumed Lesser Redpoll was flying round the area but it never settled to have a good look at it, a couple of Woodcock were flushed from the undergrowth and Treecreepers seemed to be everywhere.

Another surprise sighting was this Red Admiral which had presumably been brought out of hibernation by the recent very mild weather.

I then went over to a private lake in the hope of some Gadwall and was suitably rewarded and then suddenly noticed a duck flying into the lake and upon raising my bins was shocked to see that it was a Smew, only my third patch record following one on Felbrigg Lake and the unusual record of one on the sea amongst a Scoter flock off Overstrand.

Naturally I was delighted with the find, and it was definitely an excellent bird to bring up the 100 for the patch this year in record time. I tried to get some photos but at the same time keeping low down behind some reeds so not to disturb it so the image below is slightly blurred with the odd reed in the foreground, but nonetheless a pleasing result.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Slaty-backed Gull

With a putative Slaty-backed Gull having been present on the Landfill Site adjacent to Rainham Marshes the last couple of days, I took a trip over there today to hopefully connect with this potential first for Britain.

Having located it amongst the other gulls on the tip, we had around 15 seconds of views before it took off, but unfortunately it did not reappear again for the remainder of the day, the tip closing at midday not helping, although others did note the bird later in the morning.

The brevity of the views were disappointing, but more so was the now expected bitching on the internet with others questioning the validity of the sighting etc. Anyway, I am happy as to what we saw and can't be bothered to get involved so won't waste my time writing any more on the subject, but hopefully it will reappear soon so everyone else can see it.......

Back to birding, a couple of Ring-necked Parakeets flew over the reserve car park on the way back calling loudly which were nice to see for those of us living away from their stronghold.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Great Skua

A lunchtime seawatch off West Runton today produced the big surprise of a Great Skua slowly passing west and a Guillemot which landed on the sea fairly close inshore.

Good numbers of Red-throated Divers were on the sea too, until a very large plane flew fairly low over the sea flushing them all in the process, although the sight of them all flying round together in the sky was a rather spectacular sight.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Mandarins back at Felbrigg

A look at the sea off West Runton today produced a few Kittiwakes moving past, along with a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Red-throated Divers, Fulmar and a couple of distant auks were also noted.

Kestrel, West Runton

A visit to Felbrigg Park revealed that the lake was now partially thawed and as a result the hoped for Mandarins, 2 males and a female, were located lurking in their 'usual' corner under the trees. However apart from one on new years eve, I've only recorded 1 other there during the last 4 or 5 months so their return was a very welcome sight. On the way back to the car the first Green Woodpecker of the year was noted too.

A drive round the southern side of the park produced 3 Common Buzzards in the air together enjoying the afternoon sunshine.

Finally a walk around Overstrand and Sidestrand appeared that it was going to go unrewarded until the white rump of a Brambling flew up infront of me and into a thick hedge, with a look through the bins revealing that there was actually a small flock present which was a nice record for the village.

Monday, 3 January 2011

2nd & 3rd Jan

The remainder of the holiday weekend was spent trying to mop up some species missed on Saturday.

First port of call on Sunday was West Runton where a Common Scoter was noted passing by, then a quick stop at East Runton provided Fieldfare feeding on the sloe berries and a brief fly-round by the Waxwing which then disappeared into another non-viewable area of sloes.

Northrepps sewage farm produced a Grey Wagtail, and a Coot and a couple of Little Grebes were on Southrepps Little Broad, plus a few Yellowhammers and a Stock Dove nearby.

Monday morning saw me back at West Runton where the Purple Sand was again watched feeding amongst the seaweed covered rocks, an Eider was on the sea and both Curlew and Dunlin were noted passing west.

An afternoon visit to Felbrigg Park revealed that the lake remained frozen but the Barn Owl was watched quartering the meadows

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Patch Day List

As ever the new year commenced with a day list round the patch and thankfully the fog of the last few days had dispersed to allow some birds to be seen.

A Robin singing pre-dawn brought in the new year, and it, along with a Blackbird, Dunnock, Black-headed Gulls, Magpie and Jackdaws were all seen from the window in the first glimmers of daylight.

On the way down to the seafront House Sparrow, Woodpigeon and Starling were quickly seen along with a Jay and, as it transpired, the first of many skeins of Pinkfeet to be seen during the day passed over. The seafront produced Herring and GBB Gulls and the resident cliff-dwelling Feral Rock Doves, but nothing at all was evident out to sea.

Not wanting to waste time, and to dodge the annoying early showers, I was soon heading off along the coast road towards West Runton seeing Carrion Crow on the way, and a stop at Cromer carnival field produced Pied Wagtail, Rook, Oystercatcher and Fulmar on the cliffs.

Arriving in West Runton, Collared Doves became evident on the houses and before I was even half way down the road to the beach car park, the Med Gull dutifully flew round over the car, and was accordingly rewarded with a few slices of bread!

A scan of the beach quickly produced Common Gull, Grey Plover, Redshank, Lapwing and Turnstone and then the hoped for Purple Sandpiper, which has been around for a few days now, was picked out amongst the seaweed covered rocks.

Attention turned to the sea with a Cormorant and a few Red-throated Divers offshore, and then a party of ducks were seen approaching which turned out to be Wigeon with the added surprise bonus of 2+Pale-bellied Brent Geese amongst them. Skylark and Meadow Pipit were flying around the cliff-top, a Golden Plover flew over and then a flock of 11 Knot were picked up on the rapidly increasing shoreline. A Great Crested Grebe was picked out on the sea amongst a small group of Divers and then another big surprise with a redhead Goosander flying close inshore heading east and a few Dark-bellied Brents were also noted passing by. A check of the fields along the beach road produced Common Snipe.

Moving on, a quick stop near the station produced a nice mixed finch flock with Siskin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch in the alders along with a Blue Tit, and Mallards and Moorhen on the pond. Further along the road the first Pheasant was noted and a stop by Roman Camp produced Goldcrest and Great Tit.

It was then on to Felbrigg Park with Nuthatch and Wren closely followed by Mistle Thrush and Redwing, and then the welcome bonus of a Woodcock flushed from along the stream edge. Egyptian Geese and Teal were also along the stream but with the lake still frozen no other wildfowl could be added. A Water Rail was inadvertently flushed from lakeside vegetation and a few Reed Buntings were in the reedbed. On the way back to the car a fine male Bullfinch was seen along with a flock of Long-tailed Tits and a Great-spotted Woodpecker. A Coal Tit was noted in the car park and then both Tawny Owl and Green Woodpecker were heard calling but evaded detection. A quick dash into the other end of the park produced Treecreeper.

A drive round to try and mop up a few more produced Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Red-legged Partridges and Heron along the Roughton Road, Overstrand produced a Kestrel and Song Thrush and a Sparrowhawk was noted over Sidestrand.

Time was pressing now so I headed back along the coast road, calling into East Runton to see the semi-plastic Greylags, and then as light was rapidly fading made the decision to abort a return to West Runton but instead carry on up the road towards Felbrigg Park for owls. This proved a very fortuitous decision as while making a very quick stop on the way to look for Yellowhammer, I stumbled upon a Waxwing loosely associating with some Redwings feeding on sloe berries. With little time and even less light a rubbish record shot was quickly taken and then it was off to Felbrigg.

A quick dash down to the lake area failed to produce Barn Owl but on the way back I suddenly noticed two geese in the field just in front and was delighted to see that they were a couple of Whitefronts, an excellent site record. Back to the car and then a quick scan virtually immediately produced the resident Little Owl an excellent finish to the day, or so I thought, as within a few hundred yards of getting back home a Tawny Owl gracefully glided across the road rounding off the day perfectly.

A grand total of 75 birds were seen during the day, all within a 4km radius of Cromer, a really excellent tally and one which soundly beat my previous day list high of 67.